Liopleurodon (Liopleurodon): description, characteristics, photo


Liopleurodon (lat. Liopleurodon from Dr.-Greek. λεος “smooth”, πλευρ “side”, δο}ς “tooth”) a genus of giant pliosaurs of the Jurassic period, according to modern data the largest (or almost the largest) predator that lived on Earth.

Liopleurodon is a giant pliosaurus of the Jurassic period, the largest (or at least one of the largest) predators that have ever lived on Earth. This species was first described by G. Savage in 1873. The description was based on a tooth found in the Late Jurassic in the region of Bouillon-sur-Mer in northern France. At the end of the nineteenth century, the skeleton of a Liopleurodon was found in Peterborough in England.

 This species lived on the territory of modern Europe and, presumably, Central America 160-155 million years ago.

Liopleurodon had four huge flippers, a short tail compressed from the sides, and a large narrow head. There is no consensus about its size, while the length of an adult individual of the most well-studied species of liopleurodon was five to seven meters. The teeth of this reptile were huge, up to thirty centimeters long, and round in cross section, at the tips of the jaws they formed a kind of “rosette”, thanks to which the predator bit off huge pieces of meat from prey, and could also bite a 2-3 meter prey in half.

Liopleurodon had external and internal nostrils. When swimming, water entered the internal nostrils and exited through the external. Water passed through Jacobson’s organ and allowed the dinosaur to smell. The dinosaur was guided by smells. The nostrils of the animal did not serve for breathing: Liopleurodon breathed through the mouth when it surfaced.

This reptile could dive deep and stay underwater for a long time. She swam with the help of flippers, reaching a length of up to three meters, according to the principle of underwater flight. Liopleurodon alternately waved the front and rear pairs of flippers in order to better maneuver, while waving them at the same time, he achieved great speed.

Liopleurodons were viviparous, led a solitary lifestyle. They hunted from ambush and fed on ammonites, large fish, and other marine reptiles.

Scientists suggest that liopleurodons evolved from notosaurs 227-206 million years ago. In the Cretaceous period, their numbers declined, and eighty million years ago they were already completely extinct.

Description and lifestyle

Liopleurodon was a typical pliosaurus with a large narrow head (at least 1/4-1/5 of the total length), four powerful flippers and a short, laterally compressed tail. Lived 160-155 million years ago in what is now Europe (including Russia) and possibly Central America.

Liopleurodon is one of the most famous pliosaurids. He is featured in the third episode of Walking with Dinosaurs. This predator also appears in the TV series Walking with Sea Monsters, where these two monsters eat a huge Leedsichthys fish.

Teeth 40 cm with root, huge, round in cross section. At the tips of the jaws, the teeth form a kind of “rose”. Such teeth were ideal for biting off huge pieces of meat from prey.

The external nostrils were not used for breathing when swimming, water entered the internal nostrils (located in front of the external ones) and exited through the external nostrils. The flow of water passed through Jacobson’s organ, and thus the liopleurodon “sniffed” the water. This creature breathed through its mouth when it surfaced.

Liopleurodons could dive deep and for a long time. They swam with the help of huge flippers, which they waved like birds with wings (the principle of underwater flight). This technique of locomotion is observed in sea lions: by alternately swinging the front and rear pairs of flippers, the plesiosaur achieved better maneuverability, waving at the same time greater speed. Animals had good protection under the skin they had strong bone plates.

Liopleurodons fed on large fish, ammonites, and also attacked other marine reptiles. They were the dominant predators of the late Jurassic seas.

Liopleurodon belonged to the group of pliosaurs and was viviparous. Pliosaurs belonged to the order of plesiosaurs marine reptiles descended from notosaurs in the late Triassic (227-206 million years ago). Plesiosaurs were most widely distributed in the early Jurassic period, when, in addition to short-necked pliosaurs (to which Liopleurodon belonged), long-necked species also lived on Earth (for example, cryptoclides).

In the Cretaceous period, the number of pliosaurs decreased, and about 80 million years ago they died out. Some longnominal species of reziosaurs lasted on the ground until the late chalk period.

Liopleodon and mosaurians


Sizes and disputes about the largest predator

The dimensions of the lyopovers are the subject of disputes. The most wellstudied look, Liopleurodon Ferox, had a typical length of 5-7 m in adulthood and teeth about 7 cm. Often, Liopleurodon is also included in giant pliosaurs, whose bones are found in England and Mexico, usually highlighting them in appearance L. Macromerus. These pliosaurs reached, according to estimates, 16-20 m in length and had flippers up to 3 m long (the length of one of the found jaws exceeds 280 cm, with teeth 20-30 cm).

The recently found in Mexico has a length of slightly more than 20 m. This involves the presence of a skull 4-5 m long. (However, based on the foregoing, the 25m length and 150t weight reported in the BBC film Walking with Dinosaurs are considered exaggerated.). Some paleontologists attribute these giants to other genera of pliosaurids.

Liopleurodon may be the largest carnivore known, although some late Cretaceous mosasaurs may have been even larger (over 25 m in length). The largest predators include Kronosaurus, the primitive whale Basilosaurus, the giant shark Megalodon, the giant crocodiles Deinosuchus and Sarcosuchus, the North American pliosaurid Megalneusaurus, the Tylosaurus, Hainosaurus, Mosasaurus, the modern twenty-meter sperm whale, as well as the giant and so-called colossal squid.

However, most of the listed animals, even if they were longer, unambiguously lose to liopleurodon and sperm whale in mass.


At one time, the genus Liopleurodon was combined with the genus Pliosaurus (Pliosaurus). Liopleurodon has a shorter mandibular symphysis and fewer teeth than Pliosaurus. Both genera form the pliosaurid family (Pliosauridae).

The genus includes the following species:

Liopleurodon ferox type species . The total length usually reached 5-7.5 m. Skull length 1.2-1.5 m. Lived in the waters of Northern Europe (England, France) and Central America (Mexico). Some paleontologists believe that individual bones of giant pliosaurids from the Jurassic deposits of England and Mexico belong to this species. In this case L. ferox is the largest species, since its length could reach up to 20 m, and its head size up to 4 m. Then 7 meter skeletons belong to young individuals.

Liopleurodon pachydeirus (Callovian of Europe), distinguished by the shape of the cervical vertebrae.

Liopleurodon rossicus (aka Pliosaurus rossicus). Described from an almost complete skull from the Late Jurassic (Tithonian) of the Volga region. Skull length about 1.3-1.5 m. A fragment of the rostrum of a giant pliosaurus from the same deposits may belong to the same species.

In 2011, fragmentary remains of a very large specimen were found in the Ulyanovsk region. The found lower jaw has a length of more than 2 m. In this case, the Russian Liopleurodon was not inferior to European species and the total length of the animal could exceed 13 m. The remains are on display at the Paleontological Museum in Moscow.

Liopleurodon macromerius (aka Pliosaurus macromerus, Stretosaurus macromerus). Kimmeridge—tithonium of Europe and South America. Very large species, the length of the skull reached 3 m, the total length could be 15 m or more.


In 2003, in Mexico, the remains of a large pliosaurus were discovered in Late Jurassic marine deposits. It was originally declared to be Liopleurodon ferox, but it may belong to a different species (and even genus). Its length is 18 m, but it is a young individual. On its bones were found marks from the teeth of another pliosaurus.

Judging by these injuries, the attacker could have been over 25 m long and weighed 150 tons (!), since its teeth were 7 cm in diameter and over 40 cm long. Its dimensions may have matched those of the Lioplevodon listed in Walking with Dinosaurs. It was the largest predator in the history of the planet.

In 2007, the remains of very large pliosaurs of an unknown species were discovered in the Jurassic deposits of the polar archipelago of Svalbard. The length of these reptiles reached 15 m. Perhaps this predator also belongs to the genus Liopleurodon.

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